ElectionWatch 2012
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Obama Wins Second Term: Five Indian Americans Lose Congressional Bids

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President Barack Obama and family arrive onstage in Chicago, Ill., after winning the 2012 presidential election Nov. 6, 2012.
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    President Barack Obama declared victory for a second term Nov. 6 evening, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the conclusion of the nation’s most-bitterly contested Presidential races.

    As the nation waited for results in the hotly-contested presidential race, Upendra Chivukula in New Jersey, physician Manan Trivedi in Pennsylvania and Syed Taj in Michigan, all lost their bids for congressional seats.  In California, Republican Ricky Gill and Democrat Jack Uppal conceded their races as well.

    Physician Ami Bera – who engaged in a fierce battle to unseat Republican Rep. Dan Lungren – had a razor-thin margin of 184 votes as 100 percent of polling booth votes were tabulated. But – contrary to other Indian media reports – Bera has not yet announced victory, and said he will wait for thousands of absentee and provisional ballots to be counted, a process which may take several days. 

    Despite reported poll lines exceeding four hours in parts of Florida, and East Coast residents still battling with the ravages of Superstorm Sandy, American citizens across the nation turned up in record numbers with the hopes of forging a new direction for the country.

    Adjustments were made for voters in New York and New Jersey, two states which suffered the brunt of the storm.  New Yorkers were allowed to vote at any polling place across the state, and braved long lines stretched out around voting areas.

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie extended the deadline to Nov. 9 for displaced residents voting by fax or e-mail.

    “This (election) really came down to a choice between two candidates with vastly different plans to determine the direction of the country,” said Pankit Doshi, a corporate attorney who served on Obama’s platform committee for the Democratic National Convention.

    The 2012 presidential race was one of the most bitterly-contested and expensive races in the nation’s history, said Doshi, questioning a 2010 Supreme Court decision in favor of Citizens United, which allowed Super PACS to funnel unprecedented amounts of money into national races.

    “Significant progress has been made by the president in the past four years and he has acknowledged that more must be done,” Doshi told India-West. “It would have been unfortunate if he had not been given a full eight years,” he said, adding, “I’ve got a big smile for tomorrow.” 

    As polls closed across the country, the race went back and forth, with pundits and the media focusing on nine battleground states.  Early results in Florida – a battleground state with 29 critical electoral votes – predicted a win for Obama, but the race tightened a half hour later as the two candidates tied with 81 percent of the vote counted.  The president also gained early victories in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the home state of Republican vice presidential contender Paul Ryan. Romney and Ryan however, consistently retained a lead in electoral votes.

    Many predicted a win as Obama claimed victory in Ohio, the most-important battleground state. An Obama victory was declared a half hour after polls closed in California. 

    Acknowledging the contentious campaign and the increasing polarity of his nation’s populace, Obama passionately called for bipartisanship and said he would sit down with Romney to work out a plan to move the country forward.

    “Despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future. We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers. A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow,” said the president to thousands of supporters at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, Ill.

    “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this — this world has ever known. But also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war, to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being,” said Obama to cheers from his audience.

    Romney delivered his concession speech late night Nov. 6 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

    “The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion,” said the humbled former contender.

    Shelly Kapoor Collins, who also served on Obama’s National Finance Committee, told India-West that the results had come in so much faster than she expected.

    “I left the room for a moment and when I came back, the president had gone to 284 electoral votes,” she said, adding, “I had never taken victory for granted.”

    Going forward, the president must immediately focus on jobs, said Collins, the founder and CEO of RootSquare. She noted that there were 600,000 advanced manufacturing jobs currently available, and that the president was working to place veterans in those vacancies.

    Collins hoped there would be more bipartisan cooperation in Congress, during the president’s second term. She added anecdotally that she was tremendously touched by the genuine affection she received from First Lady Michelle Obama, who came to her during the late evening victory celebration and gave her a hug, thanking Collins for her hard work during the campaign.

    Shefali Razdan Duggal, who served as a key member of Obama’s National Finance Committee and has raised more than $500,000 for his re-election campaign, told India-West that – despite her ardent support for the president, she was nevertheless moved by Romney’s concession speech.

    “He was very humble after a long and hard-fought journey. Both (candidates) were really doing this out of the love they have for our country.”

    Duggal watched the race at a special VIP reception at McCormick Center, spending the evening in the company of actors Angela Bassett and Melanie Griffith, among others. The San Francisco-based political activist described Bassett as “charming” and added that Griffith – who sat next to her – literally jumped out of her seat when the announcement was made.

    San Jose city councilman Ash Kalra, told India-West from Obama headquarters in his city that he was elated by the news. “I’m in a room here with hundreds and hundreds of supporters. It was a very emotional moment for us.”

    “We are all worried about the future of our country and confident that the president will guide us in the right direction,” said Kalra, a key supporter of Obama who attended the Democratic National Convention as a delegate.

    Going forward, the president is going to have to heal some of the bitter wounds of the race, said Kalra, adding that he was hopeful that Republicans in Congress would now compromise with Obama on key issues such as a vital jobs bill, which was blocked in the Senate earlier this year.

    “The last Congress has had more filibustering than we’ve ever seen. Americans are tired of it,” he said.

    Indian American Republican heavyweights had predicted a Romney victory in the neck-to-neck race, which polled as “tied” as late as a day before elections. “We’re going to win this thing,” declared Akshay Desai to India-West in a pre-election interview. Desai, chairman of Finance Committee of the Republican Party of Florida, said job creation must be the immediate focus of either winner.  A certainty of regulations which support small businesses would be key to mitigating unemployment, he said.

    Congressional contenders fared less well on election night.

    As Obama claimed victory in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, capturing the state’s 20 crucial electoral votes, Iraq war veteran Manan Trivedi lost his second challenge to unseat Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach from his 6th district congressional seat. CNN declared Gerlach the winner with 50 percent of the votes counted. Trivedi captured 42 percent of the vote.

    The Berks County physician opposed President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act had run on a platform of creating sustainable jobs. Trivedi did not return calls for comment on election night, but noted in an earlier interview with India-West that the nation was tired of the congressional status quo.

    “There’s a lot of buyers’ remorse out there. People are realizing that as Republicans got control of the House, they addressed no concerns of the average American, did nothing about jobs, but focused instead on petty issues,” he said.

    In New Jersey, which was ravaged last week by Superstorm Sandy, Upendra Chivukula lost his bid to unseat incumbent Leonard Lance for New Jersey’s 7th district congressional seat.  With 74 percent of the vote counted as India-West went to press, Chivukula had captured 39 percent of the votes.

    Chivukula told India-West in an earlier story that Superstorm Sandy had captured all of his attention during the last critical week before Election Day. 

    “Two million New Jerseyans don’t have power; we can’t be doing campaigning now,” said the Indian American Democrat, adding that he had focused on restoring normalcy to his district during the final days of the race.

    Physician Syed Taj, a Democrat who ran for Michigan’s 11th congressional district seat, also conceded his race late Nov. 6 evening.  Taj had recently been attacked by Republican challenger Kerry Bontivolio for his purported ties to Islam.

    Nate Smith-Tyge, Taj’s communications director, told India-West that religion had played less of a role in determining the race than the partisan makeup of the district. “This was a district that was drawn up to be pro-Republican, and we had hoped that our moderate message would appeal here,” he said.

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